The effect of back seat driving on accident rates

In low-income countries, road traffic accidents account for 3.7 percent of deaths, twice as high as deaths due to malaria. Anyone who has traveled in Kenya won’t be surprised to hear that 20 percent of recorded crashes involve matatus, the private buses that careen around the city.

Billy Jack and James Habyarimana have a fascinating impact evaluation where they randomly put posters in matatus encouraging passengers to “heckle and chide” the driver if he is driving too fast or recklessly. The idea is that the posters solve a collective action problem: most passengers don’t like being driven dangerously, but individually they’re reluctant to speak up. Their preliminary results are impressive: the frequency of road traffic accidents in a 12-month period was one quarter in the treatment group compared with the control group (those without posters).

Via Shanta. Unfortunately I can’t find a working paper.

8 thoughts on “The effect of back seat driving on accident rates

  1. I share your concern that road accident deaths are twice as common as deaths from malaria.

    However you may not have realised that, by this measure, the US and UK are doing much worse. In the UK, only 8 people died from malaria in 2007 but 2946 from road accidents – a ratio of 368 to 1. Indeed almost as many people (5) died from antimalarial drugs as from malaria. There’s probably a (fairly dark) joke in there somewhere.

    The US does even worse, with a staggering 5000 road deaths for every malaria victim. Clearly there are lessons for America to learn from African drivers. One might be “don’t use antibiotics”.

  2. Interesting..I wonder if they are controlling for the years of experience of drivers and if heckling also relates to a negative impact on safety, below a certain threshold of driver experience.

  3. Can you please tell me where you got your statistics about matatus being involved in 20% of the accidents? Would like to follow this further.


  4. I have been living in Kenya now for three months as a US Peace Corps Volunteer and it’s true that these statistics don’t surprise me. But I would like know what the percentage of vehicles on the road are matatus. I would actually expect more than 20% from what I have seen, especially in the rural areas where the roads are of poor quality.

  5. hmmm! living in the US for the last 6 months i have not seen any difference in driving….so i wonder what makes high income countries any specail